Gower Bibliography

The Oral Undertones of Late Medieval Romance

Lindahl, Carl. "The Oral Undertones of Late Medieval Romance." In Oral Tradition in the Middle Ages. Ed. Nicolaisen, W.F.H.. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies (112). Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1995, pp. 59-75.


Lindahl conducts another examination of the similarities and differences among Gower's tale of Florent, WBT, and "The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnall" within his wide-ranging essay on the relations between elite and folk cultures and between oral and written literature in the late middle ages. Gower, "the most secure financially of the three authors, and clearly the most conservative politically, presents an elitist version." Florent is "the most orthodoxly elite of the three leading men." The old woman who gives him the riddle to solve "does so because she realizes that Florent is too nobly connected to be killed by any but treacherous means. In neither of the other tales does there appear a female figure who so clearly symbolizes an attack against basic feudal values." Only in Gower's version is the correct answer that women desire sovereignty in love: Genius suggests both before and after the tale that men must be obedient only in love. Such a reading limits the women's threat to the dominant male, and the loathly lady's revelation that she is a king's daughter "further dispels any hint that she may limit the knight's status." "Florent is a paean to the nobility that Gower served and by whom he was served so well. In its symbolic structure and its glosses, the poem reaffirms that a modicum of deference is all that is required to maintain male dominance." (All on p. 72.) The three versions of the tale demonstrate that the same plot can serve different value systems; they also show the mixing of oral performance and reading in medieval literary culture. It is possible, moreover, that WBT "was intended as a playful inversion of, and as a festive response to the sober clerical cast of Gower's tale" (p. 75). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 16.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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